Since the mid 1990s, several initiatives have been undertaken to foster participation, although mainly on the supply side: reopening of closed museums, prolonging opening hours of museums and other heritage sites, and improving equipment along with general modernisation of museum services. The huge success of new, architecturally bold and appealing cultural infrastructures – such as the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, or several museums of contemporary arts (e.g. the MAXXI in Rome, the MART in Rovereto…) – in attracting and blending different and unconventional types of audiences should be underlined.
Furthermore, special events of international significance like the White Nights, the Museum Night, the Heritage Weeks, the Feasts of Music, strategically aimed at involving citizenship and tourists alike, have by now become very popular in Italy, where they appeal to more and more huge crowds.
On the demand side, the frequent adoption of measures mainly targeted at attracting new and younger audiences, like the introduction of innovative, more flexible types of theatre subscriptions, of lower prices for cinema attendance in the afternoon, for access to opera rehearsals, etc…, as well as, more recently, for museums (see further), should also be mentioned. Much use has actually been made also of advertising campaigns and other popular techniques, like those aimed at multiplying promotional opportunities for free access.
Besides Istat’s yearly Multipurpose survey (see chapter 6.2), audience studies or detailed research on the needs and expectations of those who do not visit museums / heritage institutions or do not participate in music, opera and theatre events are not regularly carried out in Italy. In comparison with other countries, where the use of marketing and access development strategies to increase cultural participation are by far more advanced and spread out, at the national as well as at regional and local level, there is still much space, in Italy, for more strategic actions to ensure that participation in cultural life is an opportunity for everyone.
With exactly this aim in mind, in 2012 MiBACT launched a call for proposals addressed to national museums, archaeological areas and historical sites to encourage and support them in the development of programmes and projects aimed at promoting cultural inclusion through innovative forms of participation. 17 projects were selected, funded and implemented with a grant of 900 000 EUR; they ranged from agreements with nearby commercial centres in order to attract new audiences, to re-designed visitor trails and mediation devices (see for example the project “At the museum with …”, promoted by the National Prehistoric Ethnographic Museum “Pigorini” and the National Museum of Eastern Art “Tucci”, http://www.beniculturali.it/mibac/export/MiBAC/index.html), to the improvement of services and communication tools.
A new strategy for museum audience development – closely inspired by the French example – has been envisaged by recent measures taken by Minister Franceschini.From July 2014, access to all national museums and monuments is free of charge every first Sunday of the month (the Museum Sunday); at least two Museum Nights (instead of one) will take place every year, with an entrance fee of 1 EUR; every Friday, all major national museums and sites, including the Uffizi, Pompeii and the Coliseum, will extend their opening hours to 10 p.m. On the other hand, pricing policies have been changed so as “to harmonise them”, as Minister Franceschini declared, “with those currently enforced in other European countries”: while free access is still guaranteed for those under 18 (and concessions are granted to those under 25), senior citizens and tourists (over 65) will have to pay the full price.
In Franceschini’s view, these measures on opening hours and entrance fees will complement other efforts to “valorize” the Italian museum system (see chapter 3.1).